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Regional News of Friday, 15 May 2015

Source: GNA

USAID launches programme on cross-border trade

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has launched a new programme aimed at eliminating barriers to cross-border trade in staple foods and help increase food security within West Africa.

The "Food Across Borders Programme" (ProFAB), would focus on ensuring the improvement of public policies, increasing information on regional trade and strengthening the voice of private sector and regional organisations.

Mr Gene Cretz, the United States Ambassador to Ghana, at the launch in Accra on Thursday, said the institution of the programme, was based on the recommendations of an ECOWAS forum held in January 2013, which called for the need to draw attention to the crucial role that regional trade plays in West Africa's food security.

He said the recommendations also brought to the fore the increasingly important role regional trade would need to play to ensure the long-term resilience of the 365 million residents of West Africa.

He said the U.S. Government was proud to support the move towards achieving effective African regional integration saying "we know the main barriers to cross-border trade include constraints like road harassment, export restrictions, certificates of origin, veterinary certificates and value added taxes on foodstuffs, as the often cumbersome procedures at the border posts themselves".

The ProFAB would, therefore, accelerate the harmonisation and implementation of ECOWAS economic policies that remove trade barriers.

Mr Cretz said by advancing the implementation of ECOWAS trade policies, ProFAB's work would make it easier for farmers and business people to complete the transactions necessary to move food across borders, while increasing the volume, value and speed of food movements, make it easier for the private sector to invest, and increase the efficiency of the market place.

The programme, which is a cooperative effort supported by the USAID, ECOWAS and the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA), would be implemented by the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS), but coordinated and facilitated by a special Unit based at Hub Rural.

He said other civil society and producer organisations, including Borderless Alliance and the Environmental Development Action in the Third World-African Centre for Trade, Integration and Development (ENDA-CACID), would play key roles, while the USAID's West Africa Trade Hub and Partners network continued to also work hand-in-hand with the ProFAB.

Dr Lapodini Marc Atouga, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Agriculture, Environment and Water Resources, said West African economy was steadily growing and many regional policies supported and encouraged ECOWAS nations to work together to further a strong, sustainable and peaceful regional economic community.

He however noted that despite the region's progress, reducing high poverty rates and food insecurity remains a major developmental challenge as hundreds of thousands of people still faced hunger each year, and the ProFAB's work to promote cross-border trade would help meet the challenge.